Coming out is such an intensely personal decision, since being queer is somewhat of a seemingly mutable way of being different. ("Passing" as straight is easier for some than others, and it is often tied to gender presentation.) I thought in honor of the occasion, and the fact that I told this story to my friends Jenna and Rick at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner on Friday, I would share it here!
When Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with mesothelioma, as a new mom, she was full of fear. In her own words:
I was only given 15 months to live, and had to undergo a life changing procedure. On February 2nd I had my lung removed, which my sister declared LungLeavin’ Day. We celebrate it every year by writing our biggest fears on a plate, and smashing them into a fire. LungLeavin’ Day grows bigger every year.
An interactive page has been created to tell Heather’s story. You can smash a virtual plate and do a little ritual right at your computer! It’s a very cute site.
I know first hand how powerful it is to have a project to pour your fears and intention into in the wake of life altering change… When my ex fiance left me seven years ago I started my podcast, which gave me a positive thing to focus on rather than my resting thoughts which were all about fear and not knowing how to live a life different than the one I had planned out. That podcast lead to starting this blog and reorienting my career towards helping shift people’s feelings about their bodies and loving themselves. It transformed me.
When my partner Dara was going through chemo for breast cancer, her chemo karaoke video production and her cancer vlog were incredible for her to orient herself towards looking for the positive. It also gave her something to focus on in the meanwhile to get to the next moment.
One of the most powerful things you can do with your fears is to name them and let them go. Tapping is helpful, as are rituals. Most of the time our fear and pain just want to be acknowledged. I’m fond of the idea that emotions are energy in motion–no emotions are “bad” or “good” they just are. Letting them flow through rather than stay bottled up is the path of lease resistance to getting towards other emotions that are better. Like hope. And empowerment.
Heather’s Lung Leavin’ Day movement is really wonderful. I love the idea of using this ritual, even if you’re not dealing with cancer.
Living in our culture is a petri dish of fear and worry. It takes a lot of work to focus on the positive and let go of the anxieties that hold us back. Lung Leavin’ Day is a great way to do just that. If you have access to a firepit, go to the thrift store, get some plates and smash those fears away with yourself or your pals! Even if you can’t do it now, maybe set a date in the future for this ritual. Fire is great spiritual energy for leaving things behind!
One of the things you can to do be supportive of folks with cancer is let them take the lead. I wouldn’t push a positive spin on cancer on anyone, people need to have their own process. But if someone you know is doing that positive spin, do whatever you can to show up for them. It was so moving to Dara to have thirty of her friends in a room chanting “Dara” and lifting her up during her fourteenth week of chemo.
Heather is now a 9 year cancer survivor. Her Lung Leavin’ Day concept and website are wonderful ways to share an important movement.